Saturday, March 01, 2003

Personal Entry Site updates

Going to be brief tonight, as I'm currently at work, and should not be doing this here.

From what I hear the Virtual March on Washington was a success. But, it's over now, so I've removed the link on the left hand side. In it's place, I've added a brand spanking new link to something I mentioned earlier, Seti@home.

The new graphics card is working swimmingly, and I highly suggest ATI for all your graphics card needs.

I'll put something real this weeked, I promise.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Personal Entry: Motherboards and Graphic Cards

Boy, does it get any better than this? I submit that it can not.

My two month contract has expired, and now, officially, I’m a full fledged employee of the company I'm working at. Since I’m the “new guy” now, it’s my turn to do night shift. For the next month or so, I’ll be working 11pm to 7am (roughly). Hooray :(

As an “employment present” I decided to get a new graphics card. My old ATI Rage Fury Pro just wasn’t up to specs anymore. I had heard a lot about the GeForce 4 and read some really great reviews of it. So, I went out and got a GeForce 4 MX 440 AGP Card. That’s where the fun began.

I install it, and immediately the USB ports and the new graphics cards are fighting over IRQ 5. This means that my system locks up, and becomes totally unresponsive. No problem, I disable the USB on the motherboard, boot, go back to the BIOS, and turn them back on. Now they are happy with IRQ 3. But, the video card just cuts out at random, turning off the monitor when it does.

Newsgroup support research states that this particular card, and the whole “MX” line, has some compatibility problems with certain brands of Motherboards. Although my motherboard is not listed as one that it has issues with, it’s hard to find a listing for “Joe’s Budget Motherboard” anywhere. (It’s not actually called that, but it might as well be)

Back to the store I go, and exchange it for an ATI Raedon 9500 Pro. Sure enough, I plugged it in, loaded the drivers, and was up and running in 30 minutes.

The lesson in all of this is to do research before purchasing new computer products. One must not stop at the manufacturer’s website though. I suggest doing a search on Google’s groups page. It contains the newsgroup posts of real people, not marketing people, who have real problems with real computers.

Tech Tip: Registry Editing and Batch Files

All this new hardware in my rig, and I’m playing a game from 1997. Red Baron II is still the best WWI Flight sim in existence, but it doesn’t “play” well on an XP platform. The sound only works the first time the game is run, and the graphics are not up to speed. A little more research shows a way to upgrade the game to the Red Baron 3D version, and a little batch file I created keeps the sound running smooth.

Now, I’m not going to bore you with details on this. If anyone is interested, I will be more than happy to describe the steps in full. Drop me an email and I’ll pass the information along.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Tech Tip: Back up and running

Here’s a word of advice for anyone looking to upgrade their computer. Don’t go cheap on the CPU Fan.

I got the parts on Wednesday. That night I installed them into a new case. While mounting the CPU heatsink and fan, I noticed that the fan was called, and I kid you not, “Budget fan.” I figured it should be fine, after all I got it from the dealer, and Krazy Kenny wouldn’t screw me, would he?

After getting all the parts together, I plugged it in, and started to reload the hard drive. All the while, I was haunted by thoughts of the budget fan. After getting a utility called MBM5 from, I was able to monitor my CPU, motherboard, and internal temperatures. After only two hours of uptime the CPU had hit 65 Celsius, and was still climbing. So, out came all the innards again, this time attaching an Antec cooling system.

This kept the CPU cooler, but without an exhaust fan in the case, the system temperature was too warm. This meant that the new CPU Fan was blowing hot air onto the CPU, and not cooling it effectively. So the fun begins.

I mounted a case fan directly above the CPU by cutting a hole in the side of the case. This fan will blow outside air directly onto the CPU Fan, which in turn will blow that cool air right onto the heatsink, cooling the CPU. In order to vent the hot air in the case, I added a turbine fan in a spare PCI slot towards the back.

Now I had a line of airflow. Fresh air will be pulled in, blown across the CPU, and out the back. This setup has granted me a nice stable motherboard temperature of 28 degrees, and the CPU stays at 32-35.

It’s important to remember that with today’s chips measured in GHz, heat control is as an important factor as the RAM size or hard drive capacity. One must factor in a cooling system in your budget. If you are not planning on overclocking, this can still be rather inexpensive.

The Meat locker cooling system:
Antec Deference CPU Fan and heatsink $14
Antec 80mm case fan (with blue LED for a little style) $8
Antec turbine blower $14
Total Cost: $36

Much cheaper than having to replace a CPU in a couple of days because of burnout.

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